With less than a week to prepare, No. 2/6 Syracuse (1-1, 0-0) will look to rebound against No. 8/7 Virginia (1-0, 0-0) this Sunday, February 24, at the Carrier Dome. Here are a few key points that I will be following come game time:
Syracuse and Virginia's Youth: While Syracuse welcomed a large freshmen class to campus this fall, Virginia has a plethora of sophomores on its roster. Youth, no doubt, can be a double-edged sword and can help or hinder either team when it comes to walking away with a win. The team that has the least amount of turnovers and makes more plays will win this game.
Execution: You will be hearing this word religiously when it comes to Gary Gait's squad. It will be a word that will be ingrained in his players throughout the season. The Orange will head back to the drawing board this week to try and clean up their mistakes, turnovers (Syracuse committed 14 of 'em against Maryland) and reduce its penalties, specifically the abundance of yellow cards.
Syracuse's Defense: I can't imagine the Orange having another lapse on defense. Senior captain, Becca Block as well as junior goalie Alyssa Costantino must re-energize the base and get them going again. The showing on defense versus the Terps was less than stellar, with hardly any communication and weak-side help.
Virginia's Defense vs. Syracuse's Offense: Led by senior defender Megan Dunleavy, the Cavaliers return all of its starters on defense and will look to cause chaos against an Orange team that was unable to create space against a stout Terps defense. The Cavaliers held junior All-American Marlee Paton to just one goal on the afternoon and will most likely have junior Alyssa Murray and senior Michelle Tumolo on its scouting report to shut down.
Syracuse Looks To Get Even: Last season, the Orange cut a four-goal deficit to two with five minutes left to play but was unable to get over the hump, losing on the road in Charlottesville 9-7. Murray (1 goal, 2 assists) and sophomore Kailah Kempney (2 goals) lead the charge in that game.
Early Season Momentum: OK, maybe it's too early to talk momentum, but I really think it could be a factor here. I will be looking for how the Orange will respond to its 19-11 shellacking against the Terps and if the Cavaliers can avoid a letdown versus Richmond on Wednesday after its thrilling 10-9 victory at No. 6 Loyola.